Friday, July 31, 2009

I Left My Heart in the Edit Bay

Not really sure what the title of this post means, I was just trying to think of something creative instead of just writing "Update." And now I realize that this explanation basically does the same thing as writing "Update."

Moving on...

Clearly, from the lack of posting, I've been busy. And I've been busy because I'm basically working two jobs. I edit from 9-6, I have dinner with my wife, and then I hop on my motorcycle and head downtown to work on the new script with Travis, till about midnight or 1 AM, after which I head home and go to sleep.

White & Crazy Kids Editing:

This week has had it's peaks and valleys. Whenever I start editing a project I've directed there is usually a full day of noticing every little mistake in the raw footage and feeling like everything I shot was shit. It ALWAYS happens to me, on EVERY project. So much so, that my wife is even familiar with it. It's that moment when you realize that what you shot may be slightly different from your vision and that can be very depressing. But once you power through it, remember that one of the points of editing is to eliminate all the mistakes, you realize that now your job as an editor is to adapt the material that's been shot, into the final project. And that may be very different from how you initially saw it. And that's okay.

So, after THAT day, I buckled down and got to work. After finally figuring out my workflow, I like to start the process by organizing everything in Final Cut. I organize my bins, my footage, my sequences, so that everything is easy to find and easy to get to. Then, I begin to sync all the performance footage into their own separate timelines (one for the club, one for the desert, one for the house party, etc) as well as any audio that need to be attached to the picture.

From there, I spent some time figuring out flow of the video. We have six major setups, or completely new scene changes, and it's meant to have a narrative structure to it. So, I worked on figuring out where each thing would go and how long we'd be in it before moving on. Once I had that general structure down, I went through and cut the performances for each section, how I might do it if I was only seeing the performances, with no cutaways.

When that was finished, I began laying over the more narrative b-roll to tell the story, fleshing out the video. I had the White and Crazy Kids come by on Wednesday to check out the cut. They loved it, got really excited about it.

Then, I had both Travis and Dan watch it (not at the same time) and got some notes from them. At his point, the last 30 seconds of the video aren't even cut yet, but I got some great feedback from both of them, which I then spent yesterday addressing. One of the biggest notes was to cut faster, make it really cutty, and use more juxtaposition. Another note was to cut down the house party stuff, which I did. I basically spent Thursday working on the first half of the video and plan to spend today working on the second half, to get it to a pretty solid rough cut. Then, I'll have more people see it, and power through the weekend to get to a fine cut.

On the suggestion of Travis, I'm looking to bring in an editor, who really knows his effects and techniques, to take my cut to the next level...spend a day on it just really fine tune it, and 'effect' it up. I'm not really an editor, or, if I am, I'm much more narratively inclined, and much less commercial and music video inclined, so to have someone come it and amp it up would be great, in addition to my colorist, James, who will be really putting the finishing touches on the video.

Screenwriting:

So, while all this going on, Travis and I have started writing our new feature comedy. We're normally very fast, we've written our last three scripts in roughly 10 days (first drafts that is). But this one is a little slower going. For one, the first card says "Opening Scene" which is basically a 10 page sequence that we didn't beat out too specifically when developing. We always knew what it was, just not exactly would be in there. So, it took us two days to really get it down.

Then, while we were suppose to be writing Wednesday night, we spent most of the time talking about 1) the music video and 2) a new project that our manager pitched to us. It's a great idea and will more than likely be our next script, after these first two we have to write (which is fine, since we need time to develop it anyway). But, it's a great story. It'll be a musical, which should be new for us, and in discussing with our manager, we'd put it together as something for me to direct as well, which of course got me excited.

We just need to get through this first draft, vomit it out all over the page, distance ourselves from it while we immediately move on to the next one, then come back and refine. I will be really pleased if Travis and I can bang out three scripts this year. Combined with how busy I've been production wise, it will have been a very productive year.

Lots of exciting things going on.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

3Questions: Valerie Alexander - Screenwriter

As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Valerie Alexander, a screenwriter, producer and director whose projects have included adapting the novel Social Crimes, with Joel Schumacher attached to direct, adapting Michael Chepiga's play Getting & Spending, for Catherine Zeta Jones, creating the TV series Gangster, Inc. for CubeVision, and her original screenplay, PR, which has been optioned many times, but is still an orphan. Valerie made her directing debut with the short film Making the Cut, a modest festival hit.

As she tells it, this
"involves a lot of procrastination and a lot of time spent waiting for the phone to ring, coupled with brief spurts of 16-hour days either writing or on set. It also involves a lot of relationship management. If I could go back and start over, I would have put a lot more effort into staying in contact with people. Never underestimate the value of buying someone lunch."

HBAD: How did you get your start?

VA: I wrote a great script and people wanted to be part of it. I know that sounds cocky, but it is the absolute truth of this industry -- there are only two ways to get ahead: have talent, or have access to talent. The great majority of people here do not have talent. It is very important to befriend these people. Assistants are the most important. The only way an assistant gets to the next level is by finding a great piece of material and passing it on to his boss. Do you know how you can tell when your script sucks? When the person who just read it hands it back. It might be while the words, "This is one of the best things I've ever read..." are coming out of her mouth, but as soon as she hands it back to you, without asking if she can show it to her boss, her roommate, her close friend the B-list actor, that's when you know it's not ready for the market. A great script is like an Neodymium magnet. It attracts everything. My first great script (which was far from the first one I'd written), attracted producers who staged a reading, which got me managers and talent attached to that script, which went through more producers and more talent, and is currently in development with yet another set of producers. I don't know if it will ever get made, but it's gotten me a lot of work on a lot of other things, which is what a good script is supposed to do.

The other thing that happened was that that script was read by two assistants at ICM, who passed it on to a former ICM assistant who now worked for Matt Bierman at Phoenix Pictures. It wasn't the right script for Phoenix, but Matt liked it and wanted to bring me in to pitch for an open writing assignment on an adaptation that Joel Schumacher was directing. I worked on the pitch for over a week, but the day before I was supposed to meet with Joel, he hired someone else to write the script. Now, this next part is almost impossible to believe, but Matt stood up for me -- an unknown, unsold, unproduced writer -- and demanded that Joel take the meeting anyway, since I had been working so hard on the pitch. I drove to Joel's house in the hills the next day (knowing another writer had already been hired), pitched my heart out, and by the time I got back down the hill to where I had cell phone coverage, I had the job. As with 90% of all projects that studios buy or develop, many things changed and that movie didn't make it to the screen, but I will never forget what both Matt and Joel did for me that day. I am still in contact with Matt (who is one of the best and nicest execs in town) and every once in a while run into Joel, who always gives me a great big hug and asks, "Whatever happened to that movie we were working on?" Given his tenure in this industry, I imagine that's a safe greeting for him with just about anyone he somehow recognizes, but it still makes me feel great.

HBAD: What are the most difficult challenges you've encountered on your career path?

VA: The biggest challenge for everyone who is not already on the "short list" (and by that I mean the 6 writers, 8 directors, and 15 or so actors whose name alone gets the movie greenlit) is the complete absence of true representation. Nobody wants to do the work to build someone else's career for 10% anymore. Everyone wants to be a producer or, since that's illegal for agencies and they don't do it (wink-wink), a "packager." There is no longer a business model of just finding work for clients and taking a percentage.

Every job I've ever gotten, I found and pursued on my own, with my agents and/or managers merely setting up meetings, and even sometimes not that much. I think there is a tremendous opportunity for someone with connections to buyers to really hustle and make a lot of money representing writers and directors for hire, but the problem is, that's not annuity money. Those checks don't come in for the rest of your life whether you are still working or not, and so I guess it's not enough of an incentive anymore. The sad thing for me is that I miss the days (long before my time, so I guess I don't really "miss" them) when being a skilled writer or director got you work. Now, being a good writer is 80% of the job, and being a self-marketing expert is the other 20%.


HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to become a screenwriter?

VA: Anyone in high school or college right now should stay away from Hollywood for at least a year and LIVE! You can bike across Europe or work at a factory in Bangalore or at a law firm in Memphis, it doesn't matter, but if you want to write, you have to have life experiences to write about. Movies about Hollywood generally don't work, because outside of Hollywood, most people don't care about this business (sure, they're obsessed with the fame and the stars, but the industry...not so much).

People who come straight out of school and work here without any other life experience get a very skewed view of what the real world is like, and have a very hard time creating real characters to inhabit the worlds they create. If you have the luxury of spending a year in the Peace Corps, or Teach for America, or even just being an office drone at a technology park, you'll be so much more interesting to this town once you get here, you can't imagine. That's not to say you should give up your art while "living." By all means, write, shoot video, edit, hone your craft, but, as they say in the intelligence community, "you gotta live out among 'em."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Guide to the Quintessential Entry Level Entertainment Job

There's a great article by Crawford Appleby, former Director of Marketing & Distribution at Senator Entertainment, on breaking into Hollywood as an assistant.

It can be found in the Business & Finance section of the Associated Content.

Enjoy!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Post-Shooting Blues and Some Updates











I love production. It's my favorite part about the filmmaking process. I love being on set, I love the process that goes into creating an image on film, I love working with a group of collaborates, I love being the boss, the pressure, the stress, I love that everyone is looking to me for answer and I love being prepared enough to give it to them. I love how the production process brings together a large amount of people from diverse backgrounds, with a variety of specialties and talents, to create this one lasting piece of art.

The longest production I've worked on as a director, outside of the ASB films I did in high school, was five days. Almost everything else I've done, with a sizable crew, was 2-3 days. But, even with such a sort amount of time, I almost always find myself suffering from the post-shooting blues. I haven't spoken to other people about it, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is a common occurence. When you spend every waking hour with a group of people, even if you've never met them prior to this, and even though it's only for four days, there's a certain bond, a certain team mentality that is established, as all of you work towards a common goal. And then, it's all over, and everyone goes their separate ways.

And it's a weird feeling, coming down from that high that is production, and then suddenly, all these people you've been around are gone. And, at least for me, I get into a little funk, a little bit of depression, but I suppose it's perfectly natural. Anyway, that's part of the reason I didn't post Friday. Just wasn't in the mood, I guess.

But, after decompressing last week, I finally got my sh*t together and started work on the video.

First though, I ran into a little snag. I completely forgot that I need an Intel-based Mac system to edit RED footage. My laptop is Intel, but the tower I normally edit on isn't. So, now I'm like, great. I'm going to have to edit this whole thing on my laptop...which would suck. Especially because at the time, I was looking to ingest the RED footage via Pro Res 422, which is editable but uses a huge amount of processing power, so much so that I wasn't sure if my computer would handle it. Plus, I started ingesting the footage via RED's Final Cut Pro Codec and it was taking forever.

So, I started looking around for an Intel Mac that I could rent. I spoke to James, my post guy, who will be doing the color correction on the footage, and we came up with a plan. I would edit the low-rez proxies the RED camera generates, and he would then re-link the media in color to the original high-rez R3D file, which he would then export at full 4k resolution.

At the same time, a friend of mine came through and told me he's got an Intel Mac tower sitting around and I could borrow it if I wanted. Yes! So clutch.

With everything coming together, I spent Sunday ingesting the clips, organizing my bins, and synching all the peformances with the music, and syching the sound with the clips for the first scene. Got that all done Sunday. The footage looks great, even though I'm editing low-rez clips. It's weird though because it's the first time I'm editing not that great quality footage but using it simply as a placeholder. Prior to this, what I saw was what I would get, this time, the final product will look so much better than what I'm looking at for the next two weeks.

In other news, Travis and I are starting our newest script tonight. We've spent the last couple weeks going over the story and carding it out. And now, it's been sitting there for two weeks waiting for me to finish shooting the video. Now that I'm done, Travis and I are ready to start. Once we finish the first draft of this script, we're gonna move right into our next script (hopefully) which is a feature I'm developing as a my first feature film. I hope to be shooting it next year.

Meanwhile, I'll be editing the White and Crazy Kids video for the next 3 weeks and then moving into producing the video for Trapt, which we'll be finalizing next week. At some point, I'll also be putting together Chapter 3 of Mateo's mixtape.

All in all, I've got a super busy month ahead, with a lot of new projects on the way, so there'll tons of new blogs with a lot of good stuff.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

White & Crazy Kids - Music Video Shoot - Day 4

Monday July 20, 2009

We were unable to secure a club location for Sunday so we ended up pushing our shoot to Monday, which, in the end, worked out for the best. We could only have the club from 8AM - 8PM. We didn't finish shooting until about 1AM on Saturday night. We would have been forced to push our call time which would have given us less time at the club, time I really needed to get everything I could. So, everyone had a day off.

I spent some time Sunday revisiting my shot list and setups to make sure we'd be moving as efficiently as possible. I didn't want to not be able to get something that I knew I would need. I actually put a schedule together with Paul and that only took us to 3PM. Everything after that would be dream shots. However, I also knew that we'd be pushing things as we went along since everything takes time. We had a nice buffer, we would be in one location for the whole shoot, and I really felt good going in to Monday.

On Sunday, we also secured our two featured girls. We really wanted some really attractive women to be hanging out with our guys. Dan had a connection to two women, AJ Almasi and Amy Sue Cooper. (Warning: websites may be NSFW. Amy was, as I just discovered while writing this post, a Playboy model).

Everything was coming together. We also had a small logistical issue to figure out. We needed a generator to power our lights and had one but it was a big truck. Dan was worried about finding a place to park it. We knew the club had a back area but weren't sure if we'd have access to it and wouldn't know till the next morning.

We had crew call at 7:30. I wanted to make sure everyone was there at 8 when the doors would open and we'd be able to load in. As soon as those doors opened we were in there and began setting up. I knew it would take an hour or so to get everything up and running and also knew we had time.













Our first setup of the day was the main club performance of W&CK. No one else was in the shot and we were essentially using the club as a sound stage. We wouldn't see anything but the guys and lights. We got our first shot off at about 10:30. Also, on Sunday, I had worked out that aside from a few shots at the end of the day, we'd be parking the camera on Steadicam for the whole day, which certainly made things easier.





After this shot, we maintained the same lighting but moved into our b-roll dancing shots. See people move in the club, seeing Luke and Randall dancing, their walk in to the club, models dancing etc. A lot of similar stuff. Which was quick.

We did have a lunch break right in the middle of this, which in the end, worked out great because our models were running a little late. I needed them for two three set ups 1) dancing in the setup we already had 2) the VIP section setup and 3) getting them approaching the guys at the bar.

The only sad part about this whole thing was that we lost our DP Paul halfway through the day. He had to fly back to NY because he had a job starting at 6:00 AM Tuesday morning. Because flying back takes essentially 8 hrs (about five for the flight, plus 3 for the time change) it just eats up the day. He had to leave at 1:20 just to arrive in NY at 12:30 AM. However, Paul had a good friend of his out here, Arturo Meyerhoff, to come in and finish up the job. I have to say that Art did a great job. He moved quickly, he was on, he knew what I wanted, and it was a very seamless transition.





After the girls arrived and got ready, we shot their dancing and then moved onto the VIP setup. The VIP setup was going to be a performance scene for the guys. I wanted them to be in a roped off section of the club, with the girls, rapping to the camera, people around them, etc.

We set up two leather couches off to the side of the location and did all the set dressing. You can get a sense of what we did in the photo below:





































We spent some time shooting our VIP performances. It looked really great on camera. We had our steadicam moving in and out of the area, pushing past the ropes, just, really good stuff. I was very pleased.

After the VIP section, we moved onto the bar. At this point, we were at about 4:00 PM and I had four more major setups to get. Two of them I had to move quickly on because they involved the girls and we were paying them by the hour. This is where we started to run into a problem.

I had two more definite setups with the guys, one of them involved the girls and extras and the other involved extras but no girls. We lost the extras at 6:30 PM. I spoke with Trent our AD and we decided it would be best to shoot the bar scene. I didn't have a lot to get, just two shots. I wanted to get the girls walking up to Luke and Randall at the bar. And I wanted to just get a nice steadicam move around the guys at the bar. From there, we needed to move onto the leading walk in shot, which was looking the opposite direction we had been looking all night.

I was able to have most of our G&E prelighting every setup so when we were ready to shoot we were just walking into the lit area and rolling the camera, which helped move things along.













We knocked off the bar shots and then moved into the last big setup of the night, which was leading walk in (camera was in front of the guys) to mirror the follow walk in (camera was in back) we shot earlier. Once we had the extras set up I literally had 4 minutes to shoot the scene. We did it as a series, no cuts, and I believe we managed to get 3-4 takes in before we called it.

After all of that, I shot a few insert shots at the bar of cocktails being poured, etc, which I didn't love, but, whatever. I can use 'em.

And then it was all over. We wrapped production the White and Crazy Kids music video for their first single "Get Your Drink On."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

White & Crazy Kids - Music Video Shoot - Day 2

Saturday July 18, 2009

Our call time was originally set for 9 AM but was pushed an hour because we went late the night before. So Paul and I were driving down the 5 on our way to the shoot, tired but ready to keep going.

We have three different locations today: the recording studio, the executive office, and the house party location.

I only had two things to shoot at the studio: the guys at the booth, hearing their music, making changes, like it, etc. The other was a performance of them in the booth. By the time, Paul and I arrived, G&E had already been loading in and most of the crew were already there. So, I took Paul through the mixer board set and he set the guys to work.

Meanwhile, in a rehearsal studio downstairs, we started building the booth set. The guys were performing to the camera in this one, not as a part of the narrative, so I wanted to really focus in on the shot. For the booth set, we took three 8x3 panels and set them up so that there was a back, and the sides were extending out lengthwise. With the camera only shooting from mid chest up, we wouldn't see the floor, but we could be very deep and have the guys moving around a lot. We used the actual soundproofing eggshells (do not know the technical term) and lit it from above so the light is just raking down this thing, as you can see below:




















We threw a studio mic in there popping down from above, shot it hand held, a little wild, and just had the guys rock to it.

Once we shot the guys in the booth, we were out of the studio location and on to our Record Exec office location. As you may remember from this post, we had some trouble finding a office to shoot in, but in the end, Luke secured a space on the 17th floor of a high rise on City Dr. in Orange. However, I hadn't seen the location, so I didn't really know what we were looking at.

We arrived ahead of most of the crew so I took a look around. Luke had gotten us the conference room but as Paul and I were looking at it, our minds started turning. Gretchen, the extremely nice woman who was our "guardian" at this location helped us look around for office supplies when she showed us this office:













Suddenly, Paul and I started thinking. This was clearly the better office, and if we pulled all those desks out and set up one, it would look awesome. I have to say that the office location was the scariest to me, simply because we didn't have a lot at our disposal to dress it. Quddus, a good friend of mine, was kind enough to let me borrow his gold and platinum record plaques, and we had one more from a prop house. But, after convincing Gretchen to let us shoot in this space, clear out the desks, and start dressing it, I felt a lot better about it, and we turned it into this:













It looks way better in the shot but you get the idea. This was also our first day with the steadicam. Erwin, our steadi operator, was a great guy and did fantastic work. The office shots were a series of push ins and pull outs. Pretty simple stuff but effective none the less. However, we started shooting a little late and had a lunch break, and it was my understanding that we had a hard out at 5, a time we were never going to make. Apparently, Gretchen had a prior engagement she had to attend. We were pressed for time and a little worried about it, but then we found out that Gretchen would be able to stay and we could shoot until we needed it. I don't think we went too much over, but a hard out means equipment, everything needs to be out, and that would have been tough.

I have to say though, on these little shoots, when everything is scheduled to the second, and you have very little time to do everything, lunch kills me. You just get a momentum going and then you have to break. I understand it's importance but I again realized on this shoot how quickly I like to move when we're not shooting I'm tapping my foot waiting to. Which is terrible. The crew needs to eat and they deserve it. I just like to be rolling camera as much as possible.

One of the big questions for me, leading up to this shoot, was who would be playing the Record Exec. I had no idea. At one point, I thought maybe Quddus would do it...but he'd be playing himself, not a no name record exec and he'd be lending his name to the project as a result. However, I did always see it as this nerdy guy, the kind of person you would never expect to be listening to, or even like, the White and Crazy Kids. I always thought that would be funnier.

So, then, I put up a link on Craigslist. I knew that we didn't have the budget to pay anyone and would hope that we could find somebody to just do it for free, for the exposure and the footage. In the end, a dude named Mark, (who isn't even really an actor, just a med student who use to act), submitted to us looking to audition. I didn't really have time for that and he looked the part so I said you're in and forwarded the info to our producer.

Then, Friday came along and Dan showed me an email he got from Mark, which said something like, "After checking out this group online I'm not going to do this for free. These guys look like a couple of trust fund babies and if they want me to do it they can get their mommies and daddies to poney up $1000."

Now, I'm sorry, but this is a ridiculous email. Mark, if you didn't want to do it, just politely decline. Did you really think that we would pay you $1000 for this? He's not even an actor. We didn't even pay our featured girls that much. I don't see any point in asking for that, other than to say "stick it" but I don't know why he would. We weren't trying to cheat him, we couldn't pay him, no, but so what? Anyway, that guy, Mark is a total tool. That email was totally uncalled for, totally unprofessional and just not cool. End rant.

So, we needed someone. Fortunately, Luke and Randall are good friends with a cool dude named Joe Taormina, who happens to have a ridiculous mustache, looks older than he is, and is perfect for the role:














And he's perfect. He was there everyday, he let us blow smoke in his face, danced with girls, was a really good sport about it. But the 'stache, man, that and the glasses MADE it.

After the office, we packed up and moved over to our party house location. We had a lot to shoot, including a performance scene in the backyard, full of background, and then a bunch of narrative shots inside the house, including a walk in, and random stuff going down.

We were there with plenty of time before sunset, so we started setting up in the backyard. While Paul was lighting the set, I was getting Luke and Randall on getting people over. They had put out calls on Facebook and stuff and people started trickling in. We had maybe only 18 at one point. So, we went ahead and shot what we needed for the performance in the backyard:





Now, since we weren't paying for these extras, the only way Luke and Randall could get them there was to throw and actual party. Ironically, after the scene in which we really needed people, most of them showed up, for the scenes where we needed less. It was late by the time we started moving into the house and it was getting harder and harder to control the background and Luke and Randall.



It was a lot crazier than this video shows but you get the idea. I mean, background would do their crosses and then we've have to run over and pull them back. Finally, I got what I needed inside and moved onto the outside garage area for the walk in.

I have to say that I really like this scene was full of compromises on my part. We just had no time, no control and it was a nightmare. There was a lot I didn't get that I wanted to, if only to make it more specific and highlight certain points, but I think I might have a solution for that.

It's really crazy how things get moving and how very little time you have to get what you needed. You find yourself really making compromises, which will always happen, but you need to be in the mindset of finding creative solutions, not getting lost in not knowing what to do or how to change it. You really have to think on your feet. I constantly think about how I can or will be editing it, which helps a lot because I know, if I get into a crunch, those basic things that I absolutely need to make it work for me.

We wrapped around 1AM. While the party raged on, we packed up and Paul and I headed back up to LA. While most of the crew had a day off on Sunday, Paul and I would be running around shooting a few little pick ups. Rather than bore you with that, I'll move onto the last and final day for the next post.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

White & Crazy Kids - Music Video Shoot - Day 1

Friday July 17, 2009

Here we are. Day 1 of the music video shoot for White and Crazy Kids (W&CK). All our prep and hard work and drama that's unfolded over the last two weeks has all come down to this.

The day started off a little weird. Since we knew we would be going late tonight, and didn't want to shoot in the desert until afternoon/evening, we didn't even meet up for the drive to Lancaster until about 12. Because we didn't start too late, the first half of Friday felt like we should have been shooting something but weren't and that the day was wasting away. I was anxious to shoot even though we had plenty of time and I know we had scheduled it this way.

Paul Niccolls (our DP) and I headed over to Dan's around 10. I wanted to go over the budget a little bit and we still had the issue of where we would be shooting the club.

I wasn't able to post on Thursday, because of the 3Questions segment, but we found out that The Playhouse, a club we supposedly had on lock according to our "event coordinator" (I use quotations for a reason you'll soon discover) was lost to a movie premiere party. We always had the club Element on lock for Monday as a back up, but shooting Monday would require us to take Sunday off, yet still pay for some of our equipment, thus increasing the budget.

I got a call from the event coordinator Thursday night, at like 11, saying that she had a bunch of clubs to show me and she needed me to drive her around. I told her I would call her back and then dropped it. I was shooting the next morning, like hell I was gonna go around looking at clubs. Tell me what they are and I'll look at them online and tell you yes or no! And, I knew that if I drove her, I'd get stuck with her all night. At this point, with Element becoming more and more likely, the only reason we were even speaking the to the event coordinator was because they would be bringing in extras and some featured girls for the video. But I spoke to Dan that evening and he said we'd go through and extras agency for background and we'd find girls another way.

After all that was figured out, we all met up at Dan's house in North Hollywood, and as soon as Luke and Randall showed up in the Lamborghini (which changed from blue to yellow by the way, a choice that in the end was far better) we headed out for the hour drive to the desert location.

We shot with a very stripped down crew Friday. Not only did we not need a lot of people, as we didn't require hardly any G&E (Grip and Electric) but also as a way of cutting our costs, as we were pushing our budget to the max. We ended up getting to the local a little later than I wanted, leaving us about four hrs to shoot our scenes before we lost the light to the sun.



The scene involved Randall and Luke waking up in the desert after a weekend of blacking out. With them is the Lamborghini and they have no recollection of how they got it (the video is very much inspired by The Hangover).

In the car they find a flip cam, which reveals to them what happened and sends us into the music video portion of the video.





We shot on the RED camera. I had used it once before on a shoot for the Esfand video. And while it looked great on that, we were shooting on a wide lens, with a blue background behind the subject, and I really didn't get a chance to push the camera and really test it out. Well, I got my chance this past weekend. We had that thing in every conceivable position and local: handheld, sticks, Steadicam, in the desert, on a stage, moving through house party. We shot in a variety of light, on a variety of lens, and I must say that with the images I saw on the monitor, I am extremely impressed with this camera. Not only does it look like a beast, as you can see, but the images on it, the color, is spectacular. I can't wait to start editing this and see how it looks on a television.



We shot at 4k 24fps for most of the video but on occasion we did move to 3k 48fps for slow motion work. Unfortunately, the RED has yet to make shooting 48fps at 4k a possibility, and there are some technical drawbacks, as the frame size of 4k and 3k are different. The work around on it however, is fine, as this will probably not be broadcasting on an HDTV or be provided on Blue Ray (though who knows), so we can adjust what we need to while maintaining quality.

For our performance scenes, we shot 4k 24fps with a 1/96th shutter, which gives a slightly sharper imaged, a much more stylized image, a technique you find in a lot of music videos.



The last shot of the video shows Luke and Randall driving off into the sunset on their way to the next round of debauchery. So, we had a wide open desert road, no one around, so why not have Luke and Randall punch it.





I have to say too that we did all of our Friday shoots without permits, and I was really worried that for some reason a cop would show up and we'd be screwed. But, I had also chosen a location that was in a fairly secluded spot. While a number of cars did pass us on that road, we never saw a cop and I got everything I needed.

After we wrapped the desert, we all hopped back in the cars and made our way back down to Hollywood. We had three more shots to get: 1) Luke and Randall performing in the car 2) Luke and Randall driving through Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd and 3) Luke and Randall arriving at the club.

When we arrived back at Dan's place in North Hollywood, there's was some drama between crew members that completely slowed the momentum of the shoot. We had to set up the shot for a the performance in the car, which we would be shooting using a technique called "poor man's process." Normally, you have a process trailer that you park the car on and you tow it around, with cameras on the trailer shooting your subjects. That way they can concentrate on performing, not on driving, and you can shots that don't require you to have a camera in the car (something that is impossible in a Lamborghini).

We didn't have a process trailer, so I used a technique that Michael Bay uses (I know, but this is really great). We set up the car and lit the inside. Then, we had crew members on the sides of the car, flashing lights past them to mimic street lights, and we shook the camera slightly, made it a little more wild, to mimic a moving car and bam, poor man's process. Since the cuts to the car are so quick, it works.

However, it took us forever to make this happen. Not only was the drama effecting the work but we were planning to keep the car lit for our driving shots down Sunset and Hollywood Blvd. We lit this using little 12 inch fluorescent bulbs which are powered by an inverter that plugs into the cigarette lighter. But, for some reason, the Lambo's cigarette lighter didn't work. So, we had to wire it up to another car and run cables to the car. This was fine for the shots of the parked car but we needed a solution of this car was going to drive.

The inverter can also clip right onto the battery, so we thought we'd do that. Well, apparently opening the engine hood of a Lamborghini is a specialized process. We spent probably 45 minutes looking for a button or lever that would pop that thing. We looked on the Internet for an owner's manual. We called the guy who owns it! Nothing. I still have no idea how to pop the hood of that car. Now, it was looking like we were screwed.

Finally, we just pulled a battery from our producer's car, through it in a shopping back, and placed it between Luke's feet on the passenger side of the car. Problem solved, we loaded the RED into the back of my friend Chris's Tahoe, popped the glass part of the hatch and headed out.

We shot the guys driving down both Sunset and Hollywood and it looked great. Now, all we had was one last shot, a stolen shot (meaning we didn't have permission) of the guys pulling up in the Lambo, getting out and walking to the club. We debated for a half hour how to go about doing it and I could tell that the chaos of that was getting to every body. We finally decided to just lead the guys right up to The Playhouse (which has a marquee that is like a giant softbox) and just shoot out the back of the car, have them get out, walk a little ways and then out.

We nailed it, it went off flawlessly and we called it a wrap at about 1AM.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Gone Shootin'...

I'm out directing the music video for White and Crazy Kids staring today. Stay tuned for updates next week.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

3Questions: Pete Dress - 2nd Assistant Director

As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Pete Dress, a 2nd Assistant Director and member of the Director's Guild of America.

As he puts it, the position of 2nd AD entails "
communication, communication, communication. I serve as the central hub through which all information flows. I call actors and their agents with schedule information and report times. I liase with department heads to determine their needs and to relay information from the set if/when the schedule changes. I call the Animal Wrangler with the python's report time and the Picture Car Coordinator with the Gran Torino's work dates. On set, I manage and set the extra performers' action behind and around the actors themselves.

"Setting background is the one time my fingerprints are directly seen in a film and it is the most rewarding part of the job. It is actually an art form in itself to direct 500 extras, say, in a shopping mall scene and make their behavior mirror reality but work for the various camera positions. I actually find myself looking to reality in my everyday life and 'stealing' things I see to then duplicate on set with extras. In short, the Assistant Directors support the director with all the logistical and managerial aspects so s/he is free to concentrate on, well, directing.
"

HBAD: How did you get your start?

PD: While attending film school at San Diego State University, I attended a presentation from the Assistant Directors Training Plan (ADTP). This program is maintained by the Producers and Directors Guild as a pathway to becoming an Assistant Director without previous set experience or knowing anyone in the industry. It levels the playing field and allows individuals who might not otherwise have connections to the entertainment industry gain access to it.

Of course, the plan is flooded with people trying to get in, so access through the system is highly restricted. In fact, I did not make the final cut the first year I applied. When I was finally accepted, my class size was 21 out of the 980 that applied that year. Yes, it is a pretty steep cut. After becoming a Trainee, I worked on O Brother, Where Art Thou? with the Joel & Ethan Coen and a few weeks on Dr. T & The Women with Robert Altman. My assignments also included episodic television shows such as Angel, The Pretender and The West Wing. After obtaining 400 days of on set experience (which took roughly 20 months to complete), I was released into the world as an AD in the Directors Guild of America.

My first job after graduation was the series Angel. I couldn't have asked for a better (or tougher!) show to jump start my career. We had demons, monsters, vampires, stunts, lots of night work and an exremely tight shooting schedule. I learned how to get the job done efficiently and under stressful conditions. I left after that season and crossed over to feature films, where I've worked since. Some of my credits include working with the Coens on Ladykillers, Scorsese on The Aviator and Clint Eastwood on Letters from Iwo Jima and Gran Torino.

HBAD: What are the most difficult challenges you've encountered on your career path?

PD: Access. Hollywood is a tough nut to crack when you're the new kid in town. After graduating college and not getting into the ADTP the first time, I still moved to Los Angeles and began hustling work as a Set PA until I could apply again. I did not know anyone and was surprised by the large number of NO! responses I received. My first gig was a low budget feature ($500,000 I believe) and I received $50/day as a Set PA. After that show I received many more NO's and then landed another Set PA job making $75/day. And so on and so on until I got into the ADTP the following year.

HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to become an assistant director?

PD: 1) It might be difficult as a 22-yr old to absorb the body blows, but my biggest piece of advice is to shrug off the NO's. The gates to Hollywood are not going to be thrown open for every college graduate coming to town looking for a job. I don't want to sound callous, but the reality is many people want to work in the industry. The system can actually absorb all of them, but it takes time. There will be some (many) obstacles to overcome and expect to be told NO a disproportionate number of times. This does not mean you will not make it in Hollywood. It's more like a right of passage toward woman/manhood.

2) Treat everyone around you with respect. I am astonished at some of the bad behavior I see in this industry, but am a firm believer in Team Play and behave accordingly. The Production Assistants and Interns on my staff are an asset and work just as many hours as I do. In my mind it is completely unjustified and unacceptable to demean their efforts by yelling or otherwise behaving like an ass. You will be remembered more for your consistent "good guy-ness" than anything else.

3) Network like your livelihood depends on it. It does. I throw a massive party in my backyard once a year and invite every single one of my friends, co-workers, new graduates from San Diego State, etc. This is a great way for everyone to see each other and mingle in a no-stress evnronment. I actually have a friend who looks forward to these because he gets a job every single time I have a party. That makes me feel great.

4) Use your position to spread the love. I travel to San Diego State University once a year to speak about my career path and the realities of life after graduation. My two regular Set PA's are recent graduates of SDSU that I literally threw onto set and gave them their first gigs. I do what I can to bridge the gap and prepare the next generation for life in Hollywood.

5) Maintain your sense of humor and have fun. I'm the guy who cracks the joke on the walkie-talkie at 3:45 AM when we're shooting nights and makes everyone laugh. I text my PA's when they're driving home to thank them for their efforts while making a snarky joke at the same time. Humor cuts through the stress and reboots the team's attitude when things get hectic. Choose your moment, though, as making jokes during a stunt sequence is not a good idea.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Checking out The Playhouse, Budget Issues, and Shotlists: A Slightly Better Day of Music Video Prep

Today was a slightly better day, although spirits were down this morning when Dan learned that he lost the 4-ton grip truck he had gotten at a great price because we didn't confirm it soon enough. Not his fault, we didn't get the money from the White and Crazy Kids till yesterday. But Dan quickly recovered with another package but had to pay a little more since it was so last minute, which seems the opposite of what would happen. You would think that if they couldn't find a renter by a day or two before the weekend they would take anything but I guess not.

I wrote the opening scene of the video today, which is going to be hilarious. I've seen a lot of music videos going this route, using dialogue scenes in the beginning. I know it's a music video but I think people are realizing the need to make it more than that. It's no longer interesting. I'd rather watch a small mini-movie than a straight up song and dance video. It's limiting and I think it makes you care less about the characters. When it's just a face, it feels like it could be anybody, so who cares? But if you here them talk, it grounds you a little bit, provides context, give you the chance to hear them again during the video even you really can't.

Plus, it provides the opportunity for a bigger setup than you can get by just starting with the music. Ours will be funny and awesome and the video will just get better from there.

After the debacle last night, we got to go visit a few clubs today. The first one did not work but the second one we decided to go with. It's a new hot club in Hollywood called The Playhouse and it looks like we're gonna be the first ones to shoot a video in it. If it all comes together this thing is gonna be awesome.

What is not awesome, is what locking down the Playhouse did to our budget. Went up by nearly 30%. Fortunately, the guys at White and Crazy Kids just want this thing to be awesome. So, they're willing to put in the extra money to make this thing rock.

We've got two more days before we shoot and I've got a lot to do, mostly with working on my vision of the video and shotlists.

The Lamborghini might pose some problems for us out at the desert locations, so Dan and I might be heading out there again (my third time) to check and see if it works.

That's all I got for you today. I will have 3Questions for you on Thursday but will probably not post on Friday as it will be Day 1 of the White and Crazy Kids music video shoot! Next week, I'll be sure to take you through the production of the video, with pics, behind the scenes video, and a play by play.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lambo's, A-Hole Office Managers, and closed Hwood Clubs: Another day prepping a music video.

I didn't post yesterday because I spent the day driving down to, around, and home from Orange, CA with our producer, Dan Figur, looking at locations for the music video. First of all, traffic on the 5 south at 1 PM is utterly ridiculous. Stop and go the entire way. Having mostly ridden a motorcycle for the past year, and zipping through cars, driving has become a frustrating endeavor. I think, if there's anything that will push me out of Los Angeles, it will be the traffic. God forbid the day when I'll have drive a car vs. the bike.

Anyway, I digress. Dan and I finally got down to my brother's house. The house is one the main locations, comprising about the first third of the video. We ultimately decided that we'd stage it as a backyard party, since my brother and Randall still have the stage from their first show, the back yard is open with tiki torches, party lights, etc, and it'll have a great feel, rather than the closed in feel of the house.

That done, we all sit around trying to figure out this car situation. We've been looking for a really awesome car (a Lambo, Ferrari, Aston Martin) something exotic and ridiculous, for these guys to have in the video. But all the exotic stuff was really pushing us over the budget and we trying to think of what to do. Finally, my brother and Randall decided that they didn't want to finish the video and wish they did something. They'd rather put in the little extra money to make it happen than feel like we fell short. I think this first video and album is so important to them in establishing their legitimacy as serious hip-hop artists that they don't want it to fall short. Which is fine for me. I've never shot a video with an awesome car in it, so why not.

After a few calls, my brother tracked down this baby blue Lamborghini Gallardo, a very rare color, and they had just gotten in. We got a pretty good price on it so we went with it.


















That problem solved, we headed out to check out the next two locations: an executive office for our record exec and the studio. First stop was the executive office, which we came to find out was just a bunch of offices that some weird, creepy dude on vicodin rents out. Luke had spoken to someone there and she quoted him 30-40 bucks and hour. So we were like, okay.

We showed up, me, Dan, Luke, Randall, and their friend Joe. That was the first mistake. When location scouting for something, show up with one guy, maybe two, and don't bring your artists. It's only going to scare the owner, which we apparently did. He quoted us a price of $1200 for four hours. Ultimately, we realized that he really didn't want our business and was just trying to get us out of there. The guy was total tool, 40 something, bleached blonde hair, beer guy, and just stoned out of his mind. On the OUTSIDE of his office, next to the door frame, were probably 15 full page computer printouts of him holding babies. The most bizarre thing.

After that disappointment, we headed over the studio, which looked good, served our purposes, etc. Then, Dan and I headed back up to Los Angeles. In order to avoid traffic we took the 57 to the 210 to the 134. What a great route! It was rush hour and we were just flying the whole way. Will definitely go that way from now on. They talk about construction on the freeways making traffic better but when it takes you 10 years to add two lanes, and in the process of doing so you make traffic worse for those 10 years, you have to wonder.

Another big location we're looking for is a club setting. Initially, we were going through contacts, and then ended up speaking to a woman, a club promoter, who met look and wanted to help us set something up for the video. We've been dealing with her for the past couple days and while we apparently have some leads and have one confirmed yes, we have yet to see the places, which is something I need to do to decide. You get the impression she's a lot of talk and no action.

Anyway, last night, I heard from my brother who spoke to her that Dan and her were gonna go look at clubs. Knowing Dan was at a dinner until whenever, I called her and let her know I was going to join them because I need to see these clubs and make a decision by Tuesday so we can f-ing move on!

She tells me to meet at her house at 9:45. So, I get there, and get to sit around, waiting for people, only to finally leave at 10:45 to stop by a birthday party at Camden House for some old dude. You know, it's great to have met you to talk about our needs, but did I need to meet you this early? I could have met them at the first club at 11:30 and been fine. And, had I waited, I would have inevitably found out, as I did at 12:30, that NONE of the clubs were open Monday night. Really? Why did I come out? It was a huge waste of my time and gas getting around to these places.

HOPEFULLY, I'll be seeing the clubs today. I know we have two confirmed but I need to see those anyway. And there's two others, which are front runners, but we need to confirm them and I need to see it.

Anyway, yesterday was a mix of good news and disappointing news and now I'm trying to deal with some of these things left hanging that we sort of need to take care of, as their an integral part of the video.

We're coming down to the wire here because we need to get people to the place, we need to confirm our shooting schedule, and we've got tons of stuff to get done, myself included. It's hard to plan shots and ideas when you haven't seen the place you're shooting.

Nonetheless, I am excited. If everything comes together it's gonna be one kick-ass video. Paul Niccolls, our DP, flies in Thursday morning, we've got a few tech scouts, and then shooting starts Friday. I've got to buckle down, write the opening, plan whatever shots I can, and make sure everything is locked up.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Music Video Update

I spent the day yesterday riding around on my motorcycle looking for a desert location for the music video. You think that finding a desert location near Los Angeles would be easy but we need some place as close as possible since we don't want to spend the whole day travelling. Other than going out towards Vegas, the area north of Angeles National Forest and East of Palmdale provides some pretty good desert locals.

We found this place below on the 138:


video

I think that location scouting, just me alone or me and another person driving around looking at place, is one of the best parts of the job. You get to see so many different places and locations that your everyday life would never take you. It's an exploration, the quest for discovery.

Meanwhile, things have been humming right along. Bringing Dan Figur on to produce was one of the best decisions I've made. He's been awesome.

Thus far we've been hard at work securing our locations, which includes an LA club, the desert, as well as various others. We've also been trying to get an awesome sports car, like a Lambo or Ferrari, but it's been tough to find one for a good price.

Hopefully, we'll be nailing down the locations this weekend, which means I can see them and start planning my shot lists.

The White and Crazy Kids have been busy completing work on the single, "Get Your Drink On."

This video is going to be awesome, so long as our locations come through. That's what is really gonna make it. Otherwise, everything is coming together nicely. I need to really start buckling down and preparing.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

3Questions: David Light - TV Writer

As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present David Light, a television writer.

HBAD: So, tell us about yourself. Who are you, what do you do, what does that position involve?

DL: I am comedy writer who specializes in creating TV pilots that never get made. Really. My crowning achievement to date was selling the Handicapped Stall Etiquette episode to Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm. Though, I have developed, written, and sold 4 pilots -- I have yet to have one my shows produced.

HBAD: How did you get your start?

DL: I studied Poli-Sci at Columbia University, but found the doodles in the margins of my notebooks to be some of my finer work. So, I moved out to Los Angeles to become an animator. Only problem was cool doodles are not exactly transferable skills and I had no contacts in animation. So, I'd wait until after hours at the big studios and dial variations of the main number, cribbing names and titles off of voicemail, hang up, and cold call during the day. I bumbled my way into any animation meeting I could get, I was a networking machine.

Then, one night over at a friend's house, I shared my frustration that I had nothing to show for all the hard work and, as luck would have it, I was seated next to a producer who was staffing for a feature animated film! He invited me to take an animation test. I passed and was trained to work as an in-betweener. I worked in animation for four more years, developing cartoons for Nickelodeon and MTV Animation.

While working in development, I became fired-up about story telling and learned that at the heart of every idea I felt passionate about was fully drawn characters and well written scripts. And so I set out to learn how to become a screenwriter and applied film school at Columbia University's School of the Arts.

Film school is a place where students, or more specifically, "artists" try to out-suffer one another. As if whoever has the more tragic and grotesque story of personal human suffering will be the best artist. So, it was surreal to be writing comedy there. I used to get backhanded compliments like, "I wish I could be commercial." In grad school, I wrote a bunch of scripts and made a couple of shorts, always with an eye on the business. I even ghostwrote a Disney feature while I finished my MFA.

Then, I moved back to Hollywood, this time with my wife - who in the meantime had become a young superstar Rabbi (Rabbi Sharon Brous). I worked in animation for a handful of seasons on the Japanimated hit Yugioh, which meant I was demigod to eleven year old boys. The studio would send me transcripts and I'd have to rewrite them to match the lip-flaps of the pre-existing animation. It was a strange way to write - sort of like animated Mad Libs.

Meanwhile, I wrote spec scripts of existing TV shows. Though my writing samples won some awards and were well received, I found that every interview I went to, people never wanted to hear about my comedy writing, but found the fact that I was married to a rabbi to be infinitely more interesting. And it was.

And so the first original TV pilot I wrote, Morningside Heights, was about my wife's experience surviving Seminary. The idea was about clergy-to-be struggling with the mysteries of the universe, while just trying to find a date. And it miraculously sold to NBC and I began developing and selling TV shows.

HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to become a television writer?

DL: My advice is that you have to constantly produce and create. This is what separates you from the folks that think they want to write and the people that are writers. Try to choose ideas that excite you, that have some meat to them - because this takes a long time. Choose ideas that are radically original and yet feel like they must've been done before and if not they need to be done now. At every level you need to believe in your idea. If it doesn't excite you - how is an agent, producer, studio, stars, and marketing department going to get on board? My buddy has a good way of judging if an idea is marketable - if you bring it up at party and people want to talk about it, debate it, and have experienced something similar, you're onto something. If people avoid the topic like it's swine flu - well, then it stinks.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where I Look Like I'm Doing Nothing...

Probably the only good thing that came from today was this post. Some days are like that I suppose. This one happened to occur at time when I'm waiting on several different people regarding several different projects and found myself with very little that I could take action on. It was an extremely passive day.

Which doesn't necessarily mean I was doing nothing, it's just that what I was doing isn't measurable, I can't cross it off a list. That's often a byproduct of being a writer or director. The majority of our work doesn't involve anything measurable. Yes, you have pages you can write, or storyboards you can draw and prep, but for the most part, it's an intellectual game until you actually start writing or enter into production. While the producer on my new music video has a lot to do, much of my work can't start until he starts crossing things off his list. So what do I do?

Well, to someone like my wife, or (as in the past) my parents, or anyone who doesn't understand what it is creative people do, it looks like I spend a lot of time doing nothing, or "playing" when I should be working.

They don't realize that unlike a lot of corporate, retail, restaurant jobs out there, sitting at ones desk forcing it can often backfire and get you no where. Rarely have I had an amazing idea come to me while I'm sitting at my desk trying to come up with an amazing idea. It'll come to me when I'm on my motorcycle, not trying to think about it; it comes while I'm calm and relaxed with a good cigar; it comes to me right before I fall asleep, as my mind wanders, working itself to a solution, or building a good idea into a great one.

That's hard to explain to someone who sits at a desk all day, making phones calls, checking things of a "Action-Item List" or what have you and it's an unfortunate side-effect of the job. That we, as creative types, will spend massive amounts of time looking like we're doing nothing and getting blamed for it.

And while my wife would probably say, "Got nothing to do? I've got a list of things for you," that's not how it works either. I need to carve out that time to let my mind wander, absorb, cultivate, and solve. To not let it, is, effectively, to not be working, as strange as that may sound.

And due to that, I often feel guilty about putting myself in a position to let my mind wander, for fear that I will be blamed for doing nothing. The best thing I could have done today was to grab a cigar, or go for a ride, or a walk, and just let my mind day dream. I didn't, which arguably, is why I feel like I haven't accomplished much today.

I remember I once had an argument with my parents, one I've repeated with my wife, where I tried to explain this to them. One summer, during college, I spent a couple days a week that I wasn't working, writing and producing my new screenplay. My mom would often call me and ask me to do things, which would end up interrupting my sitting at my desk, staring out the window, day dreaming and trying to solve a narrative problem with the script.

I had to tell my mom, as I later told my wife, that it may not look like I'm doing anything, but I am. And they need to treat the time that I'm writing, or working on a project, or whatever I'm doing up in that room from 9-5 as work and pretend that I am unavailable (as I would be as an normal job), that I am not even there. Because, to take that away from me, to interrupt me, or give me a list of other things to do, is only delaying that which I'm trying to do, get paid.

Sometimes days like this happen, no matter what job you have. You're in a funk and very little gets done. You gotta ride it out and find a way to enjoy it. There's no sense in destroying yourself for it. If you're having an off day, can't get it done, and are in a position to do so, leave, take a walk, call it a half day, go do something that you know you'll enjoy. Life is too short for the bullshit of not being happy in your every day life. What is the point otherwise? Nothing is a waste if you're happy doing it, no matter how trivial it may seem. So, go have that cigar, ride your bike, go swimming. As a creator (writer, director, painter, singer, musician, etc) you need these other things. You need a life to fuel your day dreams.

And sometimes, you just need a break.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How I Got Started - Part 6

And now we come to what was a pivotal moment in my career: The Beautiful Lie.

The Beautiful Lie actually began with Michaela McManus. She and I both went to Fordham University where she was in the theatre program. I had seen her in a number of school plays my freshman year where I thought her talent was often underutilized. I knew I wanted to do something with her.

It wasn’t until the end of my freshman year that we met. For whatever reason, she had heard of me, and I obviously told her that I thought she was extraordinarily talented and deserved to be in something that would show that off. We left off that I would come up with something for us to work on together.

I racked my brain over the summer, had several fits and starts, but couldn’t get anywhere with it during the summer. Within the first couple weeks of sophomore year, my roommate was telling me about some new freshman he saw at the local watering hole that night, who was in a drunken stupor, going on and on about how excited he was to have his girlfriend coming the next day to visit. Maybe an hour later, my roommate said he saw him in the back of the bar, making out with some chick. And my mind started working.

I thought the psychology of that person was interesting. How does someone allow their guard to brake down like that? Is it just the alcohol? Is it a hidden desire? Is it something they’re not even aware of?

I thought I would take this character, make him a her and use the film to explore what led to and the consequences of that decision. I spent several weeks working on the script, got all kinds of advice and perspectives from people that had been cheated on, and spent a lot of time and energy making sure I got the character of Claire correct. I didn’t want someone to look at this and say that Claire was the construct of a male mind.

I had told Michaela about the project and thought that we could get it shot this semester, right before winter break. I wanted to shoot in winter since the environment around the story would fit better than summer or spring.

Unfortunately, the following semester Michaela was studying abroad in London, and thus her weekends were filled and she wouldn’t be available. I knew that there was something special about this project, yet also knew the script just wasn’t there yet. Rather than move the shooting date up to accommodate her schedule, I decided that we would wait till the following year, I would take the next year and work on the script, and we’d shoot it in the fall of ’04.

After shooting and completing 12:01, I came back to my junior year at Fordham ready to make The Beautiful Lie. I scheduled the shoot for December 4,5,6, just to give myself adequate time to prep and make sure I knew what I was doing. Michaela’s performance in this short was so vital to its success that I wanted to make sure I could direct her.

I spent part of my Thanksgiving break holed up in a hotel room typing out my notes, thoughts, observations, etc for the rehearsal and scene analysis. Meanwhile, I was also producing the film, so my time was split between my work as a director, rewriting the script, and getting all the logistical stuff in line for the shoot.

Finally, production came. We spent two and a half days shooting the film. The last day, we shot from 7 AM on Sunday until 3AM Monday morning. This was because we couldn’t get into the bar until after 5 and it took forever to light. I had chosen to shoot on the XL2 with the Mini-35 adapter, so with all the rented equipment due back Monday morning, I had to get what I needed with the adapter. There were a few scenes I shot later, the night before I left for winter break, using just the XL2 and stock lens, but I knew I could sneak those in. Anything inside the bar had to be done that night, so we pushed on.

The shoot went very, very smoothly, even though there was a point where I had to just check out for 10 minutes. I had been going and going and going, hardly sleeping, just always thinking about the film, and arrived at a scene that was just not working shot-wise. And I couldn’t come up with an alternative, so I just had to go outside in the hall and shut down for a moment.

But we finally finished the film. I had those few more scenes to shoot on the XL2 before the end of the semester and I had to get them because the following semester I would be in Florence, Italy studying abroad. By the time I got back, Michaela would have graduated, her room would have been empty, and I would have been missing some key shots.


video

In June of 2005, when I returned home from Europe, I started editing the film. I had managed to edit a trailer (above), which I was able to show everyone prior to leaving, but now it was time to get down to business. The break had been nice. After spending so much time on the film, I was able to step away from it, disconnect, and come back with a completely fresh perspective, which in the end was EXTREMELY important to the post-process of this film. Had I gone straight into it after shooting, I think the film would have been a disaster. It was also nice to have nothing else going on while editing. I had a few corporate video jobs here and there with my company but I had a lot of time, unencumbered by school, to work on the film.

The post process with The Beautiful Lie was a huge learning experience for me. Having shed most of the memories of what shooting was like and what I was attempting to get, all I had before me was several hours of footage. I had to adapt the movie I shot into the final product. To do that, I tossed out the script and just hacking away at what I had.

A big portion of the film was flashback, of which I had shot a huge amount of footage. A large part of the editing process was figuring what to reveal, how to reveal it and when. I kept a journal of the experience, and since the editing of this film was so important to the final product, I thought I would give you a glimpse into my editor’s mind, while working on the film.

7/16/05
I also think that in certain scenes we need to push the “torment” of what she’s seeing. Her reaction…maybe take the jaws theory: make the movie based more on her reactions, and let us only see very little. Just glimpses. The trick is to not give too much away. Not lend the audience too much. The flashback scenes need to equalize though…I can’t have a scene with tons of flashback in one sequence, and then only a glimpse in another. Quit thinking I should include stuff simply because I like it or I shot it. Get out of that mindset.

7/23/05
Watched the version of Beautiful Lie. Not quite sure what to make of it. I might be too deep into it and watched it too soon. Audio is harsh and rough, no music, so a lot is missing.

8/8/05
Showed a cut with music to Arthur and Chris. They thought it was really good. At least it’s not the train wreck I thought it was. We then spent about two hours going over the film and most all of it was positive, and surprisingly, maybe because of the state of mind I was in, I didn’t get defensive, even in my head, and they’re suggestions made sense.

Another main issue in the film is tightening up everything from Scene 6 to the love scene. It’s a little sloppy. Chris mentioned that the best part of the whole movie is that moment when she sees herself in the bar. It’s like, BAM. The trick is to get to that quickly, because a big problem right now is the length. Part of that, I feel, is that I need to cut down the flashbacks. I love the shots I got, but I need to let them go, and play up the reaction stuff more-so than the flashback.

The film is playing on the theme of guilt, not infidelity. Infidelity is the trigger for the theme. So, by focusing on flashbacks, we focus on the event. By focusing on the reactions, we focus on the guilt. So, I’ve got to figured out some things with that.

9/10/05
Back in New York now. I think I may have figured out something with the flashbacks. Before, I have having this immediate reaction to it (i.e. running hands through hair, etc.) but what should be going on in 10- whatever, is more of a confusion. The reason for this is because we’re playing off these flashbacks as Claire not really knowing what they are…so, the problem was that we were portraying her as knowing exactly what they are. So, I cut out any of the running hand through hair stuff and now I feel it works.

Now, in scene 21-24, we need to see a little more of that frustration, so, maybe one shot of her running her hand through her hair.

9/20/05
Has a small screening of the latest cut tonight. The film is still running long, around 25 minutes. Kevin mentioned he felt it dragged in the sequence between her leaving the bar and her telling the lie.

I’m considering cutting a version where I cut all of it out. See what happens with that. The question is where to cut? I think when Ryan says Claire, we should cut to her running in to the apt, then cut to the shot of her walking, then cut to the shot of her walking up to Tom. Then Ryan comes in and she hugs him and we cut to black. Try this.

I think I need to put back in the sections after her lie, because it’s still kind of an abrupt cut. I think I’ll try it with everything back in but it might just need adding a shot of Josh before he gets up. Jeremy has a problem with the line, “I can stay another night.” Not sure I can do anything about it, though; I could have Josh ADR the line. I want to check on the other version of it…however, as a last resort, ADR might be the way to go. I can’t change the line, but I can change the way he says it.

10/2/05
A lot has happened thus far. Per Danielle’s suggestions I made some cuts. For one, I cut the “f**k me” out of the F**k me scene. I like it a lot better and Danielle made some great arguments why it’s not right for that scene.

We also changed the ending. There is no dialogue and the film ends on her staring off at Ryan, with that great shot of Michaela, as she watches him walk off and now it just fades out. Much stronger, much better.

11/6/05
And now the picture is locked. I’m sending it off to the composer tomorrow and then have a meeting with him on Tuesday, a scoring session.

I’m actually very happy with the cut, though I’ve lost all ability to judge it accordingly. Either way though, it’s nice and uplifting to lock it. After nearly 6 months of editing I’m here.

Final length minus credits is 20 minutes and 30 seconds. Not bad. Not bad at all. The big thing will be seeing what people think of it. I’m wondering if I should have another screening of it.

I don’t know. I mean, the people that have seen it, the sound people anyway, have loved it, thought it was great. Hmmm…Something to consider. Though, I probably wouldn’t make any changes.

I’m happy with it.

I’m going to watch it one more time.





It would be, however, another four months before the film was complete. I spent a lot of time working with the composer and the sound designer to get everything just right. Having the music scored, and directing that process, was a real first for me and quite an experience. I had to find a way to describe to Michael the feeling and the emotions I wanted and he had to find a way to translate that into music. I then had to find a way to critique and rewrite that music in a way that he would understand.

A week after completing The Beautiful Lie, I submitted it to the mtvU Student Filmmaker Awards. I went through a lot to make sure I had all the forms signed and submitted, all the releases done, etc but finally got it all in, a week before the deadline. I had noticed the contest when I was randomly perusing the mtvU site.

Later, towards the end of April, I was informed that I was going to be one of the five nominees for the award, and that voting would commence at the beginning of May. I had to shoot an interview with myself and submit to them materials to be cut into bumpers and video promos for the award.

Later, two days after graduating, I got a call the day I arrived home to Seattle, telling me that I was one of the top two vote getters and they would be flying me down to LA and bring me to the MTV Movie Awards where they would announce the winner.

And I ended up winning. It was a very special moment, even though it was the MTV Movie Awards.

The Beautiful Lie went on to be featured in several film festivals across the country and forced my move to Hollywood to try and take advantage of the win. So far, it hasn’t worked, but as soon as I make it for something having nothing to do with the award, it’ll be a good trivia piece.

The process was incredibly trying and took a long time, but I look back on The Beautiful Lie fondly even though I haven’t watched it since March of 2006.